How Much Did It Cost to Replace My Lawn with a Garden?

AFTER: Garden in summer 2017, the third year after removing the lawn

I recently read through Emily Henderson’s backyard makeover and was horrified at the cost ($19k for materials + $10k for design and labor). We were able to replace our lawn for much less – just over $4k for the first three years – because we did the design and labor ourselves, and planted smaller plants that would take a while to grow in.

To be fair, my yard’s smaller and has no remaining lawn; additionally, we don’t have any boulders or hardscape (we plan to install a path) We did build an arbor ourselves, which was the most expensive single part of the initial installation!

BEFORE: My uninspiring “lawn” aka clover patch with two anchor shrubs in May 2013

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Lawn Replacement: the Pollinator Garden 3 Years Later

NOW – my garden, three years after lawn replacement

Three years ago (spring 2015), we ripped out our lawn and replaced it with a pollinator-friendly, drought-tolerant, and native garden. We happened to pick the worst possible summer to replace the garden – the drought was so bad the water districts called for voluntary water reductions and asked people to stop watering their lawns etc.

BEFORE – same view of the garden in September 2015, the year of planting.

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DIY Lawn Replacement: Plant Success Report

Front yard in three planting beds

Front yard in three planting beds, September 2015

When I was selecting plants for my front yard lawn replacement, I had a challenging time guessing which plants would do well, especially the natives. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of info out there about which native plants take well to PNW Puget Lowlands gardens (or maybe I was looking in the wrong spots).

I planted between May and July 2015, shopping at multiple nurseries to get everything (and still couldn’t find everything I’d picked out), so I’m reporting back on how the plants I chose did after an extremely hot and dry summer. I think I had higher-than-normal mortality due to the drought, rabbits, and mistakenly thinking one section of my yard was much shadier than reality.

I’ve divided the blend of native, drought-tolerant, and wildlife-friendly plants into categories: favorites, doing well, surprises, meh, dying, dead, and scrapped.

(Check out the three-year garden update, with lessons learned about plant selection, garden design and the replacement process.)

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The Saga of a Puget Sound DIY Native & Pollinator Garden Lawn Replacement

AFTER: My pollinator garden in 2017

For two years, I dreamed of replacing my lawn with a native, drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly garden. Finally, I removed my old lawn and replaced it with a garden in 2015. Installation and updates during the first three years (2015 through 2017) cost just over $4,000. As with all major projects, it didn’t go precisely as planned. I’m sharing my successes and misadventures so others in the Puget Lowlands / Seattle area who are considering replacing their lawns with a pollinator garden can avoid repeating my mistakes. See the three-year garden report!

BEFORE: My uninspiring “lawn” aka clover patch with two anchor shrubs in 2013

Planting plan for my lawn replacement, featuring native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant plants.

Planting plan for my lawn replacement, featuring native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant plants.

Phase One: Planning

  • Layout Design
  • Plant Selection

Phase Two: Preparation

  • Removing the Lawn
  • Soil Testing & Amendment

Phase Three: Installation

  • sod cutting lawn

    Sod cutting the lawn.

    Plant shopping

  • Plant layout & planting
  • Lighting & hardscape

See how much it cost to DIY install our new garden.

Phase Four: Survival

My garden, three years after lawn replacement

Phase Five: Future!

  • Replanting
  • Incorporating bulbs
  • Adding more mulch & fixing the soaker hoses

Check out the garden after three years here – plus lessons learned on the replacement process, garden design and plant selection.

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